Guy on baking


Baking soda versus baking powder

I recently came across this article, which I thought was quite interesting. Here is what I have learnt from my research.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (aka bicarbonate of soda). When it is brought into contact with an acid, a chemical reaction occurs that produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which, in turn, have a leavening effect.

Baking powder comprises a base (most commonly baking soda) plus a dry acid (most commonly cream of tartar) plus a buffer (most commonly corn starch) to stop the base and the acid interacting. When it is brought into contact with a liquid, the same chemical reaction occurs as for baking soda.

Most current baking powders produce further carbon dioxide when heated and are thus known as double-acting baking powders.

Wikipedia lists 3 common bases for baking powder and 9 common acids.

Baking soda and baking powder can potentially be substituted for each other but only if you know what you are doing.

Baking soda and baking powder work much more quickly than yeast and don’t produce any flavours. Although yeast also leavens through the production of carbon dioxide, the underlying chemistry is completely different.

Baking powder was invented in 1843 by someone called Alfred Bird, who was motivated to develop a yeast-free leavener because his wife was allergic to yeast. He also invented egg-free custard as his wife was also allergic to eggs. What a husband!

Honey versus sugar

I recently came across this article, which I thought was quite interesting. Here is what I have learnt from my research.

Sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Honey is around 40% fructose, 30% glucose, 20% water and 10% other substances (including pollen and minerals). So, whereas sugar is a simple substance, honey is much more complex.

Because of the 10% of other substances, honey has a taste that goes beyond sweetness and this means, for example, that baked goods taste somewhat different if made using honey rather than sugar. Some of these other substances in honey may also have some health benefits.

In sugar, the fructose and glucose are bound together to form sucrose. In honey, however, the fructose and glucose are mostly unbound. One byproduct of this is that honey actually tastes sweeter than sugar.

Honey has an ability to retain moisture and baked goods made using honey may stay therefore moist and tender for longer periods of time than those made using sugar. This can be important for recipes where dryness is a concern, such as whole-grain bread or muffins.

Honey is about 50% heavier than sugar.

When substituting honey for sugar in a recipe, the formulae to use are not obvious because, as discussed above, honey has less sugars but tastes sweeter and is much heavier. A brief survey of the Internet suggests that substituting equal weights (not volumes) is reasonable. Because of the 20% water in honey, reduce the liquid in your recipe by a fifth of a cup for every cup of honey used. And potentially add a bit of baking soda to counteract the acidity of the honey.

Sour cream vs yoghurt

Sour cream and yoghurt are both fermented dairy products, with sour cream being fermented cream and yoghurt being fermented milk. They typically use different bacteria for the fermentation, which gives them somewhat different tastes. Creme fraiche is effectively a type of sour cream. Greek yoghurt is yoghurt that has been strained to remove some of its whey, thus making it thicker (and more similar in consistency to sour cream).

In both cases, the bacterial fermentation turns the sugars into lactic acid.

The differences between sour cream and yoghurt are less than the differences between some cheeses – it is effectively a historical accident that, unlike cheese, they have completely different names.

Because of their different source substance (cream versus milk), sour cream has much more fat (and therefore calories) than yoghurt. By contrast, it typically has less protein.

It is widely agreed that sour cream and yoghurt can be substituted for each other in recipes using a 1:1 substitution. However, note that:

  • The flavour might be slightly different.
  • Greek yoghurt is the closest in texture to sour cream.
  • You can effectively turn plain yoghurt into Greek yoghurt by straining out some of the whey using a piece of cheesecloth.
  • Having less fat, yoghurt is more likely to curdle when heated.
  • When substituting yoghurt for sour cream, you can also add some butter to raise the fat content.

Possible vegan substitutes for sour cream include:

  • Coconut cream, created by skimming off the top of coconut milk and adding some acid (e.g. vinegar or lemon juice) and salt.
  • Silken tofu, where you blend firm silken tofu with some acid (e.g. vinegar or lemon juice).

 Leave a Reply